Was at City University last night to see Thomas Gensemer, Managing Partner at Blue State Digital, talk about the use of social media as an engagement tool based on their experience running that strand of the Obama campaign.
I have to say that I was very taken by his approach. I was expecting something more technology focused, buzzword laden but instead the focus was very much on using simple technologies to build on basic good comms practice.
Some things I took away from the talk:
1. Be clear about why you are communicating. Do you expect the recipient to do something as a result? If so what? How will you know? How are you supporting them to achieve that? How does this become an engagement as opposed to just a one off?
2. Scale can be a way of derisking engagement. With 10 people if 2 disagree with you then that’s 20% of the audience actively against you, with 10 million people then even if 10,000 disagree with you it does not have the same impact.
3. If you are going to use technology then be clear why that platform. If the core value to you is being able to data mine the information about the people you are engaging with then doing that through Facebook or Bebo just means you have gifted that information to the platform owner. Not only that but you are now entangled in their brand values, viz. recent Facebook change of terms controversy.
4. Email works. Not email newsletters, no one reads them unless they are very specialised and effectively fanzines, but clear short emails which link to useful things. How can I get involved? What are the next steps? What resources are available to me? I liked the line about how the energy spent on email newsletters is vast and the return so slight.
5. Trust the people. User generated content can be gold. A recording of a teacher, a film of a volunteer these were the powerful things that stick in the mind.
6. But don’t get captured. It’s about facilitating community engagement, not community diktat. Be clear, be brave, don’t just delete and hide from things which challenge or embarrass but also do not get captured. Be clear what is up for discussion and what is settled.
7. Make it real and make it tangible. “I clicked here and I did this and now I am making this difference.”
None of this is unexpected, none of it rocket science so why are we still hooked on the idea that if we provide a platform that somehow, automagically, a topic will become interesting and people will become engaged?
Oh and …